12 things you should know to avoid being brain-washed (Part 4)


Many attendees lose their own friends and family through the pressure to supply ‘friends’ as potential purchasers of the training or event, or to become followers of the cause. Their reward is often to obtain a discount for the next purchase they are making for themselves, or to simply fulfill a membership expectation and get a ‘minder’ or ‘handler’, or the involuntary support/peer group they were assigned to – off their back.

There can be an amount of pressure with some organisations to establish a referral or a list of referrals. I know of some who have been asked for 5 referrals per day, each day of the training. This might be someone you will bring along to an information evening or a person who will answer a call from the sales team. You may have conflicting thoughts about this….

Launch the Stories

As for the brainwashing part during this process – You will be most likely be being fed stories of people who, because they contacted a friend that they least expected would be interested in the training, and their life was turned around completely and now they make more money than the one who brought them, and they are now friends for life.

The other story plots they use can be categorised loosely as rags to riches (like the example above), the life quest that requires overcoming all odds, the undertones of revenge culminating in the statement: I’ll prove you all wrong, the empathetic story of the migrant or stranger in a strange place or new country and this might also known as the monomyth, or the hero’s journey. To throw you off the scent of (oh no, here’s another story of some bozo who made it too), they can weave in a good story that is purely funny and maybe empathetic or very light and unexpected.

Be cautious, as the pattern breaking story can be a way of getting you comfortable for the very next sentence that they say, delivered while you are happy and relaxed.

“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” Joss Whedon

If they are more skillful, they will use many mixed versions so you might not pick where it is going, nested loops and other techniques which I discuss the whole story item in more detail later too. The perfect stories are designed to encourage even the most timid attendee that they should abandon all caution to the wind and call everyone they know. Frame all of this in a statement that has you feeling that only the selfish keep this information to themselves.

The stories are designed to do two things concurrently:

  • Have the listener think of themselves; can they do this and be this successful? does this story fit me?
  • Have the listener think of a friend; this is so much like my friend x; I can see x doing this.

Few of the stories are verifiable. Occasionally, they will have one or two stories about people in the audience to give a sense of credibility to the statements they make from then on. Also, if you hear them say “…his name was Fred Smith, and he won’t mind me saying this because we go way back….”, you may have the illusion that this is authentic, but it means nothing – there may not be a person that has ever been in the speakers life with this name and if ever a Fred Smith shows up, well the one I am talking about is obviously another Fred Smith.

There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it – Alfred Hitchcock

The distinction

Telling stories to get someone to change their life for the better is one thing, but using a story to lure people into spending more money on what you are selling is very unethical.

Attendees who compare notes on various forums have found that the same stories have been used for many years with a few variations in a couple of details (like their dog’s name, their original career or job, their partner’s name), but that the ‘pattern’ of the story is the same though. The dogs, jobs, partners, towns, and physical features are all completely useless fillers to allow the listener time to make a mental picture of this person long enough to be fully engaged.

“The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

“Humans are pattern-seeking story-telling animals, and we are quite adept at telling stories about patterns, whether they exist or not.” – Michael Shermer

So the very detailed descriptions of the people are so that you can fully imagine the person as if you already know them, and if the description fits you or someone you know, then they have a win. This is all to engage you in the process and thinking of the subject of the story. There are also stories that have been said to have been used from speaker to speaker ie. indicating either there are two people out there in the world with a very similar story (possible) and/or that this ‘pattern’ of story must be very successful or universal in its getting people engaged and ‘on board’.

“Artists use lies to tell the truth. Yes, I created a lie. But because you believed it, you found something true about yourself.” – Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

So, with the stories, they cover a variety of scenarios to cover all people types, so you might be able to fit yourself in one of these stories.

The friends and family names you’re being asked for…

Back to the encouragement you will be being given to find friends and acquaintances to be handed over to the highly persuasive selling teams, in order to get them to part with their life savings, all because you supplied their name, under pressure or in a weak moment, or because you thought they’d appreciate it. Internally, you might be saying any or all of the following:

  • this is a good thing for that person and I have no hesitation calling them or supplying their name
  • I wonder which of my friends will become a millionaire in less than 3 years?
  • this is a good thing for that person, but they wouldn’t like me supplying their name
  • who can I call?
  • who can I call anonymously?
  • what about my extended family?
  • what about that team at work that are just so annoying?
  • what about that supplier who is legally not allowed to give me gifts, but no one said I can’t get them to oblige my request – to just take a simple call – this is Ok isn’t it?
  • what about my kid’s school-friends?
  • what about my ex’s?
  • a bit desperate now, I value my friends….. I wonder if they would recognise the numbers if I supplied all the fast-food numbers in my phone, or old numbers of people I know have left their address?
  • what did they say again about whether the people I list – would they need to know it was me?
  • why don’t I see very successful people around me, they are all wanna-be’s, because successful people wouldn’t be in this predicament…. I want what the real successful people have got and never be in a place like this again

“Friendship – my definition – is built on two things. Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don’t have trust, the friendship will crumble.” – Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

What you can do

  • This method (of referrals) is employed to either reduce their advertising budget (having you sell for them) or because it is difficult to sell unless one of the persons (the attendee) is emotionally involved and heightened in their response at the time. Plus, for every person attending every session, the marketing is being extended to another 5, 10. or 15 or more people, depending on the policy they employ.
  • “The truest form of love is how you behave toward someone, not how you feel about them.” – Steve Hall

  • How much do you value your own integrity? Consider if you have any reservations about bringing a valuable friend into this training or group of people.
  • Would they be happy with you? Would you be happy with yourself?
  • “You’re going to come across people in your life who will say all the right words at all the right times. But in the end, it’s always their actions you should judge them by. It’s actions, not words, that matter.” – Nicholas Sparks, The Rescue

  • Look at a trajectory of your relationship a few months or years down the track and see if you think you would still be friends into the future. Is their friendship more important than the short term requirement to supply their name?
  • Is the motivation to supply friends to achieve a discount or get someone off your back or a genuine consideration that the friend could benefit? Who is more important in the long run?
  • Have the presenters told you a few (often unsubstantiated) stories about those who got an acquaintance to come and ‘you never guess what happened next’? Do some critical thinking as to what you would do if their story wasn’t true – is it still worth it?

Article Posts: Introduction Parts: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Conclusion References

12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Introduction) - Introduction - where people overspend, waste their life and get hurt, looking out for others to guard against being brainwashed, includes signs and tips for what you can do
12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (References) - Brainwashing Reference Material, transcriptions of LGAT events, what's banned in some countries, about de-programmers, Cult watch, Cult truth, abusive churches, recovery programs, stories in full from Cult Awareness and Information Centre (CAIC), TED, Cults, Sects, and New Religious Movements, Resources for Recovery from Destructive Cults and Groups
12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Part 1) - Awareness - Read. Be aware of what you are planning to attend, research the organisation. What you can do if you are being asked to go to an event, considering an event or someone who is wanting to sell to you.
12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Part 2) - Specifics - What happened at the event you went to? Few people can describe what they have learned - "you have to be there, I can't explain..." Research states: nonspecific effects of expectancy and response sets may account for positive outcomes
12 things you should know to avoid being brain-washed (Part 3) - Loyalty and allegiances; Projecting the Perfect Leader; Long Sessions, but is there any substance?
12 things you should know to avoid being brain-washed (Part 4) - Lose your friends - Many attendees lose their own friends and family through the pressure to supply 'friends' as potential purchasers of the training or event, or to become followers of the cause.
12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Part 5) - Exit Minders; Silence equates to Agreement (not); Am I the only one who is thinking this?
12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Part 6) - 6 You may have already learned about the Exit Minders, Silence equates to Agreement (not), Losing Friends, Lack of Substance in previous posts… this post continues with the sixth of the 12 things you should know and what you can …
Did you notice where the author of this sign places children in relation to dogs and other animals? 12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Part 7) - 7 You may have already learned about the drivers for brainwashing from the introduction to this series, Exit Minders, Silence equates to Agreement (not), Losing Friends, Lack of Substance in previous posts… – this post continues with the seventh of …

What NLP Training can do for you

  • We teach you many items that give you critical thinking skills, where you can question quite objectively and come to a balanced conclusion and decide for yourself what you should do.
  • NLP Training provides many skills, but relevant to this specific point, it can give you a grounding in the language patterns that help discern what is being communicated to you and helps attendees become immunised against these kind of manipulations – you’ll be aware from that day forward.

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